Congrats on saving up for that down payment! And hats off for committing to mortgage payments, homeowners insurance and property taxes. Now for your reward: home sweet, sparsely furnished home.

Furniture shopping may be the last thing you want to do, but it may be necessary if you moved into a bigger space or parted with unwanted goods in that process. Avoid overspending with these strategies.

Stick to cash

Earmarking savings for furniture can help homeowners pay for it in cash. And that’s the “absolute best way” to buy, said Justin Nichols, certified financial planner and director of operations at Garrett Planning Network. 

If you already bought the house and didn’t budget for furniture, try to stick to cash. “It’s OK for a room to be sparsely appointed or even sit empty for a while as you save to pay cash,” Nichols said.

If you can get a credit card with a no-interest promotional period, and you know you can pay off your purchases in that time, that’s the next-best option, he said. The worst choice? Renting-to-own furniture, he said. It can easily double or triple your cost.

Prioritize purchases

Identify and buy whatever essentials are missing first. Those needs could include a kitchen table if you never had one in your small apartment, for example, or a crib if you are expecting a baby.

Next, shop for a few big, functional pieces. Betsy Helmuth, who owns Affordable Interior Design, recommends the websites RugsUSA and Wayfair for affordable rugs and suggests saving money by choosing synthetic fibers rather than wool.

A sofa, preferably a sectional, will also make your home feel fuller — and cozier, she said.

Indulge in affordable extras

If you have cash to spare, buy a few items that are both practical and decorative. These can make an unfamiliar house feel like home and show off your style. For example, Helmuth said, lamps are like “sculptures for the room,” and, unlike overhead lights, they “create cozy pools of light on a human level.” She recommends for inexpensive options.

Drapes are an “affordable way to add visual interest to your walls” and “soften up a space,” she said. She also suggests hanging a few prints.

Do not pay full price

You can sometimes save a few hundred dollars by negotiating furniture prices, said Dan DiClerico, an expert at HomeAdvisor. At independent retailers, he suggests mentioning your interest in supporting local businesses when you haggle. At big-box stores, you will have better luck requesting discounts on floor models with wear and tear, he said. Take advantage of price-matching, coupons and seasonal sales in January, July and holiday weekends, too.

Furniture from thrift stores, as well as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Nextdoor, can also be inexpensive. And, of course, you can’t get any cheaper than hand-me-downs from family and friends.

While paying little for furniture may be financially responsible, Helmuth warns against filling your new home with stuff you don’t love just because it’s cheap or free.

Whatever you buy, she said, “keep in mind it’s going to stay longer than you think.”


Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. E-mail: Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.